Guitar Inversions

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Learn How To Play Guitar Inversions In This Guitar Lesson!

This lesson is about chord inversions. First, we will let you know what an inversion is and then give you a couple of inversion shapes to practice.

In order to understand what an inversion is, you need to know what a root position chord is. A root position chord is simply a chord where the root note of the chord is the lowest note of the chord. An inversion is just a chord where any other note besides the root note of the chord is the lowest note of the chord.

Let’s look at an example. The notes in a G major chord are G, B, and D. If the lowest note in the G chord is a G note, you have a root position chord. If the lowest note in the G chord is a B or a D you have an inversion.

Now let’s look at the difference between a 1st inversion and a 2nd inversion chord. In our example, G is the root of the chord, B is the 3rd, and D is the 5th. If the 3rd of the chord is the lowest note, we call that a 1st inversion chord. If the 5th of the chord is the lowest note, we call that a 2nd inversion chord.

Make a root position G chord by placing your 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string, 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string, and 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string. The note you are playing with your 3rd finger is the lowest note of the chord and it is a G. This is a root position chord. Now take your 3rd finger off of the 4th string and keep your other two fingers in place. Lay your 1st finger over the 3rd fret of the 1st string while keeping the 3rd fret of the 2nd string fretted as well. You should have a little bar going across the 1st and 2nd strings with your 1st finger. Play these three notes. The lowest note should be the B that you are playing with your 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string. Now you are playing a 1st inversion G major chord because the B, or 3rd of the chord, is the lowest note.

Learn about finger numbering and the string notes here!

In the example we add a 4 and 5 chord to the 1 chord in the key of G. These chords are a C major and a D major. We will be using 2nd inversion shapes for these chords. Again, that just means that the 5th of the chord is the lowest note. Put your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string and play the top three strings. This is a C major chord and the lowest note is a G, the 5th of the C major chord. That makes this chord a 2nd inversion C major chord.

Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 1st string, and your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string. Now play the top three strings again. This is a 2nd inversion D chord because the A note is the lowest note in the chord.

Play around with these inversions and see if you can come up with your own shapes. Knowing how to build chord inversions will help you to build your chord vocabulary and get to know the layout of the fretboard better.

This Lesson Has 11 Comments

  • Mike says:

    Nate, man, this video was like chineese for me, and I’m not chineese. I’ve heard the term inversion before and this did not help me understand what it really is. When I hear inversion it conjures the mental picture of turning something upside down.

    Triad?? what lesson/video shows what this is? Root note. As many videos I’ve seen so far this is still a mystery for me to know or understand how to determine what this is and where. The G cord you demo in this video is not a G I recognize and have never seen it before as far as I know. I’ve seen open G, bar G and power G but this one is a question

    What set of steps/lesson/videos do I need to see before being able to understand this one?

    The concept of inversion is difficult when I didn’t understand the starting point.

    • Mark says:

      Hey bro, hope this isn’t to late. The G chord Nate Played is notes G B D. Three note chords are called a triad. If you play any GBD on different strings and strum it, It is a chord. The G chord you usually play is G B D(open),G(open) B or d on string 2 and G on string one. To make a chord you need at least the 1 3 and 5 of the scale you are playing in. G Major scale G A B C D E F# G . If you start at the first note of that scale. You have a G skip one B skip one again and you have D. If the lowest(deepest sounding) note is the root note (the G in this case)Then the G chord is said to be in root position. If the B is the lowest note then it is G chord in the first inversion….sometimes written G/B meaning g chord with a root of B. A power chord is the 1 or root and the 5 of the scale, sometimes the 8 or octave is thrown in to give a fuller sound. Hope this helps. An inversion is upside down just like the name says the chord is upside down or not in the usual order 153 or 351 instead of 1 3 5…

  • Elise Tobin says:

    I what that now

  • Raizen Eric says:

    i know now, thank you my friend

  • jed taylor says:

    All triads have the ability to move into chord inversions. Is there a reason not to make the root 1st and 2nd inversion out of any triad. minor major etc. I ve made the voicings and find that some of the voicing actually change the chord progression voicings. The l 4 5 has new depth, the example came about when moving inversons of a minor triad around against inversions of major/minor combinations in the chord progressions. Are there some standards/rules when utilizing inversions other than the ear

  • BILL VAN says:

    When do we apply do inversions?

  • Roy says:

    Thanks Nate! I had to play the video twice before I got the lesson. Keep it up!!

    BTW, was that MMMbop you just did in the end? Hahahaha!

  • David says:

    Hey Nate. I’ve just discovered your site and the lessons. Seems like good, thoughtful work. I would hope for one more thing in your lessons though.

    The key difference between rote learning and meaningful learning is the “why” factor. If I may use this lesson as an example, you do a fine job of explaining the idea of inversions of triad note chords and I like the example you played at the end. My passion for learning (guitar in this case) is found in learning reasons for doing what I’m pursuing (here, learning to play inversions). So to feed my enthusiasm (rather than possibly dampening it), I would encourage you to add to the lesson(s) explanations and an example as to WHY somebody might want to use inverted chords in the first place (or whatever else you’re teaching in your lessons). If I can learn how using inversions can make a song more interesting, powerful, emotive…whatever, then you will not only have given me good information, but also the motivation to learn it well! (I know at least Bill Van and I would greatly appreciate it.) ;-)

    Many thanks Nate. Keep up the good work.

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  • Maureen Steele says:

    If you played your D-G-B strings open would that be a 2nd inversion G major chord?


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